Wooten v. Roden

Decision Date18 March 1954
Docket Number7 Div. 100
Citation260 Ala. 606,71 So.2d 802
PartiesWOOTEN et al. v. RODEN et al.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Roy D. McCord, Gadsden, and Max J. Howard, Fort Payne, for appellants wooten.

Lusk, Swann & Burns, Gadsden, and L. L. Crawford, Fort Payne, for cross-appellant Hardware Mut. Cas. Co.

Davies & Williams, Birmingham, for appellee Fidelity & Casualty Co.

Beddow & Jones, Birmingham, for appellees Roden.

LIVINGSTON, Chief Justice.

This proceeding is for a declaratory judgment of the Circuit Court of DeKalb County, Alabama, sitting in equity. The principal question to be determined is whether or not an injury suffered by Oscar Ray Wooten is controlled by the Workmen's Compensation Act of Alabama. Code 1940, Tit. 26, § 253 et seq. The final decree rendered in the court below was, in substance, to the effect that Wooten, one of the appellants herein, was injured in an accident 'arising out of and in the course of' his employment. The appeal is from that decree.

The evidence was taken as in chancery cases. As a consequence, no presumption is here indulged as to the correctness of the decree of the trial court. In substantial effect, the evidence is without material conflict and shows the following:

Jerry Roden operated a business known as the Boaz Creamery, located at Boaz, Alabama, and another division of the same business known as the DeKalb Creamery, at Fort Payne, Alabama. Both creameries were engaged in selling milk products at wholesale and at retail. More than eight persons worked as employees of Jerry Roden in said business.

The DeKalb Creamery operated a dairy bar from which dairy products were sold at retail. Oscar Ray Wooten was employed to operate the soda fountain and to do other work incidental to retail sales at the bar. He was paid $20 per week.

Paul Roden, the son of Jerry Roden, served as general manager of the creamery located at Fort Payne.

Shortly before Christmas of 1948, Jerry Roden decided to give a supper party at the Palace Cafe in Boaz. His guests were to be all of his male employees from both divisions. The party was to be held the night of December 23. After the supper, Jerry Roden was to pass out Christmas gifts to all of his employees. All employees, whether they attended the party or not, were to receive gifts. No employee was required to go to the party. No deduction was to be made from the wages of anyone who did not attend. Employees were not to receive any additional compensation for attending, nor was any employee to gain an advantage of any sort for attending. In short, attendance was without compensation or request, purely voluntary upon an invitation. Jerry Roden told his son, Paul Roden, to extend the invitation to all male employees at the Fort Payne division. Sales, office and production personnel were all invited, except for the few girls who worked in the office.

Wooten left Fort Payne to attend the Christmas party in an automobile driven by Paul Roden. Said automobile was owned by Jerry Roden, and was furnished by him to Paul Roden to be used in connection with the business of the DeKalb Creamery, as well as for Paul's own personal use. While being driven on a direct route between Fort Payne and Boaz, this automobile, occupied by Paul Roden, Wooten, and two others, was involved in a collision with another car. As a result, Wooten was seriously and permanently injured.

Wooten's regular working hours were from 10:00 a. m. to 9:00 p. m. On the date of the accident, however, both creameries were closed early, and at the time of the collision (approximately 6:00 to 6:30 p. m.) no employees of either creamery were expected to be on the job.

The evidence shows that Wooten's salary continued to be paid to him for three months subsequent to the accident. Also, Jerry Roden paid medical expenses incurred by Wooten in the amount of $3,220.

On the date of the accident, Hardware Mutual Casualty Company was the workmen's compensation insurer for Jerry Roden and for the DeKalb Creamery. The Fidelity and Casualty Company of New York was the insurer of the automobile involved for public liability purposes.

Jerry Roden testified that he had planned to discuss the business, and to praise his employees for their past year's work, but that any such discussion or praise was not the reason for giving the party.

The expenses of the supper were to be paid by the business, and were placed on the books as business expenses for income tax purposes.

One employee testified that prior to Dec. 23, 1948, he had understood Jerry Roden to say that the supper party was to serve as a business meeting as well as for pleasure.

The issues upon which this appeal is founded as easily stated:

(1) Must any action for damages based upon the injuries suffered by Oscar Ray Wooten necessarily be governed by, or limited by, the terms of the Workmen's Compensation Act of Alabama, so as to obligate Hardware Mutual Casualty Company to defend any such action at law?

(2) Is the Fidelity and Casualty Company of New York obligated to defend any such action at law?

(3) Pending final disposition of this suit, should further prosecution of any such actions for damages at law be enjoined?

We are of the opinion that (1) must be answered in the negative, and that (2) and (3) must be answered in the affirmative.

Title 26, § 262(j) of Code of Alabama 1940, which defines the meaning of the phrase 'injuries by an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment,' as used within our Workmen's Compensation Act, states the following:

'Without otherwise affecting either the meaning or interpretation of the abridged clause, injuries by an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, it is hereby declared; Not to cover workmen except while engaged in, on, or about the premises where their services are being performed, or where their services require their presence as a part of such service at the time of the accident, and during the hours of service as such workmen, * * *.'

Subsection (j) was borrowed from the compensation law of Minnesota, Laws of Minnesota 1921, C. 82, M.S.A. § 176.01 et seq., and is presumed to have been adopted in Alabama with the construction theretofore given it by the courts of Minnesota. See Ex parte American Fuel Co., 210 Ala. 229, 97 So. 711.

The phrase 'arising out of' employment denotes employment as the source and cause of the accident. We have stated that in order to satisfy this requisite the rational mind must be able to trace the resultant injury to a proximate cause set in motion by the employment and not otherwise. Alabama Pipe Co. v. Wofford, 253 Ala. 610, 46 So.2d 404.

We have made a thorough search of the authorities of both Minnesota and Alabama. Having done so, we are of the opinion that no case has been decided in either Minnesota or Alabama, upon facts similar to those now before us, where the issue involved has been the interpretation of the aforesaid phrase. We must refer ourselves to the holdings of other jurisdictions which have been determined upon similar factual situations.

As stated previously, the principal question presented is whether Wooten's injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. The solution of questions of this character must depend upon the particular facts and circumstances; no exact formula can be set forth which will automatically solve every case. Prayther v. Deepwater Coal & Iron Co., 216 Ala. 579, 114 So. 194; Benoit Coal Mining Co. v. Moore, 215 Ala. 220, 109 So. 878.

The Minnesota Court, prior to the adoption of the Alabama act, construed similar or exact language as that quoted above from Tit. 26, § 262(j), Code of Alabama 1940, as interposing an expression in the nature of a limitation of the general phrase 'arising out of and in the course of employment'. Nesbitt v. Twin City Forge & Foundry Co., 145 Minn. 286, 177 N.W. 131, 132, 10 A.L.R. 165; State ex rel. Duluth Brewing & Malting Co. v. District Court of St. Louis County, 129 Minn. 176, 151 N.W. 912. This view of the effect of such language was accepted in Ex parte Majestic Coal Co., 208 Ala. 86, 93 So. 728.

Upon considering the meaning of the complete expression 'arising out of and in the course of his employment,' and of its separate component parts, it should be observed that while an accident arising out of an employment usually occurs in the course of it, such is not invariably true. Likewise, an accident which occurs in the course of an employment does not necessarily arise out of it. The words 'arising out of' involve the idea of causal relationship between the employment and the injury, while the term 'in the course of' relates more particularly to the time, place and circumstances under which the injury occurred. The phrases are not synonymous; where both are used conjunctively a double condition has been imposed, and both terms must be satisfied in order to bring a case within the act. 58 Am.Jur. 717. Generally, an injury arises out of an employment only when there is a causal connection between the injury and the conditions under which the work is required to be performed.

Courts in other jurisdictions which have passed upon the compensability of injuries sustained outside the formal scope of the employee's duties have evolved a number of criteria which may be resorted to in determining whether the employment and the recreation are related with sufficient closeness to be held within the terms of workmen's compensation acts. For convenience, they were enumerated in Moore's Case, 330 Mass. 1, 110 N.E.2d 764, 766, as follows:

'(1) The customary nature of the activity. * * * (2) The employer's encouragement or subsidization of the activity. * * * (3) The extent to which the employer managed or directed the recreational enterprise. * * * (4) The presence of substantial pressure or actual compulsion upon the employee to attend and participate. * * * (5) The fact that the employer...

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  • Ricciardi v. Damar Products Co.
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    ...S.W.2d 244 (Mo.Ct.App.1948); Maeda v. Department of Labor and Industries, 192 Wash. 87, 72 P.2d 1034 (Sup.Ct.1937); Wooten v. Roden, 260 Ala. 606, 71 So.2d 802 (Sup.Ct.1954). It has, however, been recognized in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. See Miller v. Keystone Appliances, 133 P......
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    ...aptly stated: "[I]n Alabama the employment must be the source and cause of the accident. Our Supreme Court in Wooten v. Roden, [260 Ala. 606, 610, 71 So.2d 802, 805 (1954) ], stated that in order to satisfy the 'source and cause' requirement 'the rational mind must be able to trace the resu......
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